It’s easier to think of Watch Dogs: Legion simply as the sequel to Watch Dogs 2, but in reality it’s so much more. Not only does it add the next chapter in the story of Watch Dogs, it tries to reimagine and refocus on the very core concepts of the franchise itself. Moving away from the streets of San Fransico, we find ourselves in the heart of London, where we see xenophobia and autocratic surveillance at their extreme, where the govt tasks a private military to “ensure people’s safety” while the latter itself consorts with the criminals for the sole purpose of attaining more power over society. It’s a place ripe for rebellion – and who better to lead it than the beloved hacking group DeadSec?
Legion is a brand new original story in Ubisoft’s dystopian London that takes the player into the seediest underbellies of the city in a desperate attempt to rebuild DedSec after they find themselves branded as terrorists after a number of bomb blasts disrupt the city. And it’s not just a chosen few who are up to the task, you can literally find potential allies anywhere and everywhere. Thanks to the new “Play as Anyone” feature, any NPC can be recruited to your cause, and you’ll find more than enough who are willing to, because everywhere you go you’ll see people who are tired of being used and discarded. Add to that the Watch Dogs charm of highly impressive hacking mechanics and puzzles along with a deep narrative that looks like a very scary, yet natural evolution of the current global climate, and it’s easy to see what makes Watch Dogs: Legion so great.
Even though hacking as a world mechanic has been simplified, as compared to the previous entry, it doesn’t feel lacking at all. Instead, it makes for a much less cluttered HUD and a more refined experience that doesn’t get too overwhelming just because of the sheer amount of info on the screen at any given moment. You can still disrupt people while you’re walking around, make cars go haywire and raise roadblocks to your advantage, but you no longer run into options for blowing up sewers and changing traffic lights every 5 seconds, which after a point can get annoying. Hacking in Legion feels a lot more objective-driven, and in my opinion that’s way better.
The city of London has been recreated quite faithfully in Ubisoft’s futuristic and totalitarian re-imagining, and the attention to detail speaks for itself. Not only will you get to see some of the most iconic sights around the city, you’ll even have the opportunity to infiltrate them in a number of ways, and the option to be able to play as any random NPC just makes the world more livelier.
Watch Dogs: Legion takes a close, hard look at each faction responsible for shaping up the society, using every tactic they have to their advantage. Whether it’s Blume who created the AI and ctOS that powers the entire city, to Albion, the private military whose meteoric rise to power seems nothing but suspicious, or the gangs that roam around, taking advantage of the poor and the powerful alike, it provides an insightful look into the driving force behind these groups. What makes it even more compelling is that scattered around the map you find audio and text logs with tidbits of conversation that portray public opinion about the sociopolitical situation, and it’s hard not to see how similar it is to the situation we see globally these days. Ubisoft has created a compelling environment involving every element, which makes it a joy to find these collectibles and find out more about the world the game is set in.
Legion builds upon the older game’s scanning system as well. When you scan someone, not only do you get to see some personal info about them including what they are up to at that moment, it will show you any special skill sets that person might possess that will make them a valuable addition to your team and lets you add them to your recruitment list, where you can come back and recruit them any time you want to. There is a small, solid cast of characters that you repeatedly encounter, including DeadSec’s personable but stolen AI Bagley, but you’ll spend the majority of your time getting to know the people of London through Ubisoft’s “Play As Anyone” system. In Watch Dogs: Legion, you can legitimately recruit and play as any single person that you encounter in the game. Based on their views, you will have to do a recruitment mission to gain their trust and bring them to your side, but you can go ahead and try to recruit anyone that catches your attention.
The “Play as Anyone” system also provides a novel way to approach customization mechanics. Each member comes with their own specialties, which means you can’t just rely on one character to carry you through the game. As the missions require you to use different tactics, you’ll find yourself constantly switching between characters, which leads to multiple options for the way you customize them and take on the objectives. Every character can be equipped with a non-lethal weapon and a gadget from a common collection, but some have unique weapons like the paintball gun, some have access to a big ol’ cargo drone that can carry you to a whole to height (literally). If you want a serious arsenal, you’ll have to recruit gang members, professional hitmen, or just that random passerby who happens to own a G36. Similarly some characters may own their own car that they can call on demand, but most will have to hitch a ride from one of London’s many self-automated cars.
The game does have its share of flaws. Some were graphical hitches, like some textures not loading up fast enough, and some were more about the gameplay. For instance, the driving felt a little too snappy in the beginning and movement felt a bit sluggish while moving between cover during combat encounters. However, that didn’t take too long to get used to, and once I did it was pretty much a breeze to handle. I never ran into any game-breaking problems, and even the graphical issues were short-lived and didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game.
With the number of options at the player’s disposal, I think it’s safe to say that no two players will have the same experience with the game, which makes it quite amazing. Your choice of operatives will end up impacting the way you handle missions, which themselves have multiple ways to approach all the objectives. Blending that with a deep story that is deeply rooted in our current world scenario results in a unique experience.